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January 19, (Day # 19) – Guarding Privileged Information

In today’s readings, we come to Genesis 36, which gives us the account of Esau’s family and descendants. Although we are not particularly attracted to or excited about reading a long chapter that presents a genealogical record – especially that of Esau’s - nevertheless it is important for us to recognized that God promised blessings to all of Abraham’s descendants. Thus, God has an interest in Esau’s family line, and He presents it to us here. However, from today’s readings, Genesis 37 is probably more striking to us – “the account of Jacob” (verse 2). Notably, it begins not with Jacob but with “Joseph” (verse 2). Not only is Joseph the pride and joy of Jacob, but also he is the central emphasis of his life - “Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons” (verse 3). Abraham’s favor of Isaac (cf., Genesis 25:5-6) persists down through the family line, but parental favoritism of one child over another is not good parenting – it has consequences. Here we read about Joseph’s dreams and then Jacob’s initial reaction to receiving Joseph’s bloody robe, as presented to him by Joseph’s brothers. Although Jacob clearly recognizes Joseph’s robe, he foolishly jumps to all kinds of false conclusions that are completely unrelated to reality (i.e., to the truth). Joseph’s brothers enhance the story – though unnecessarily – for true to typical human nature, Jacob will simply assume (i.e., believe) what he wants to believe - that Joseph must be dead. But, in fact, Joseph is NOT dead - he’s on his way to Egypt. This illustrates how quickly and readily we all can fall into a belief system that is grounded in weak and insufficient evidence. Things are not always what they appear to be, and the truth – whether visible or invisible – always offers the strongest evidence for any event because the truth rests solidly in God. Here in this story, the truth about Joseph is invisible to Jacob. The mere existence of a visible bloody robe may be true, but it offers no tangible evidence whatsoever to Joseph’s actual condition of life at that moment. The robe only appears with deceptive enhancements by the brothers to suggest that Joseph might be dead. That Joseph is at that very moment on the road to Egypt would offer much stronger and greater evidence to testify that Joseph is actually alive – it’s just unavailable to Jacob. We must always guard ourselves against belief systems that are inconsistent with reality and truth; these are God’s domains, not man’s. We will have more to say about Joseph’s robe tomorrow.

Psalm 10:12-18 reminds us that “the LORD is King forever,” and “He defends orphans and oppressed” people (verses 10-18). God is the “Helper of the fatherless,” and He promises to “break the arm of the wicked and evil man – to call that man to account for his wickedness that would [otherwise] not be found out” (verse 15). The Psalmist tells us, that God does this so “that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more” (verse 18). When I think of a passage like this, I recognize and thank God that He is our Anchor Who provides for us the reliable, steadfast, and blessed hope.

In Matthew 13:18-35, Jesus explains the meaning of the parable of the Sower. “the message about the kingdom … is the seed sown … in the hearer’s heart” (verse 19). Luke tells us that the “seed is the Word of God” (cf., Luke 8:11). However, the problems of sowing seed are not contained in the seed – the soil into which the seed is sown creates the problems. Also, the “evil one who comes and snatches away what was sown in [the soil of the hearer’s] heart” (verse 19). Earlier in the chapter, Jesus quoted Isaiah and said that “the people’s heart has become calloused” and they have closed their ears and eyes” (cf., Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:15). Not only was this true in Jesus’ day, but also it characterizes post-modern man in our day. It amazes me how people today will turn a deaf ear to the good news of salvation from sin in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It’s like someone who owes a great debt that someone else has offered to pay, but the debtor responds, “No! I refuse to believe that someone else would pay my debt, so I’d rather pay it myself!” Who does that? If we look around ourselves, we will see the answer – post-modern man – our neighbors; our friends; our relatives. As this section of Matthew’s gospel continues, Jesus tells three more parables – (1) the parable of the weeds, (2) the parable of the mustard seed, and (3) the parable of the yeast. The first parable indicates that, in the present age, the wheat (i.e., the bread of truth) and the weeds (i.e., the lie) must grow side by side until the harvest so that the tender wheat is not damaged. The parable of the mustard seed reveals the extensiveness of the gospel outreach, which began in a small, insignificant way and grows to its outward manifestation. Finally, the parable of the yeast shows us the inner intensiveness and effectiveness of the gospel outreach. When the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do you speak in parables? He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them” (13:10-11). Secrets are privileged information; we need to guard them carefully.

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